In our last blog we focused on “who” we are in times of transition. Taking time to explore our identity and who we hope to become is essential in crafting an authentic, conscious way for moving forward. The beauty of this is that with each transition, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves on some level.
I remember being in my early thirties and shopping with a dear friend who now has a highly successful career in the film industry. As we went in and out of stores along a busy Los Angeles street, she commented, “I haven’t figured out the ‘look ‘I want for next year.” Her words stopped me. I had never intentionally thought about a ‘look’ I wanted to create, or a vision I wanted to project for myself. I simply purchased clothes that fit and appealed to me. She, however, consciously took time to create a vision for the upcoming year and made decisions accordingly. I’ve never forgotten that moment, and I often wonder if her ability to see herself in the future and make intentional choices around such a vision has contributed to her long-term professional success.
Of course as the saying goes, “Clothes don’t make a person,” but they are a powerful metaphor for transition. They symbolize how we show up in the world. They can reflect beliefs with which we identify. They also symbolize seasons and cycles. What once fit no longer does; what was appropriate in August might not be in February. They are a tangible representation of the cycles of transition we experience, but don’t always acknowledge internally.
Society provides us with external markers of cycles of transition as we move from childhood to adulthood. The rites of passage match our budding maturity and allow space and time for reflection and growth. But once we reach physical maturity, these markers mostly disappear. Research now shows us that adults continue to develop and transition psychologically throughout life, long after our physical bodies reach maturity. But many of us hold onto the identity we formed in our early 20s without evaluating and envisioning new possibilities for the future.
In the medical field specifically, women’s transitions and rites of passage are being researched as common, significant events that produce a the transformation of both people and contexts.1
While we continue to experience life-altering transitions as we move through adulthood, we often lack rituals and strategies to move through them. A guided cycle of retreating, reinventing and recharging at regular intervals can support this transition work. Through decades of coaching and supporting people’s professional and personal development, I’ve witnessed these cycles spur deep level transformation. It’s a process and ritual you can engage in regularly throughout your lifetime. I’ll share a few perspectives on why this process of retreating, reinventing and recharging is so important:
Retreating – whether through a ten minute morning ritual, a three-hour workshop, or a multi-day adventure – provides a place of calm in the midst of the daily fray. It’s an opportunity to step back and assess what’s in front of you. Just like an American football quarter back receives the ball and retreats several steps behind the line of scrimmage to assess options for advancing the ball forward, so too can you step back to get a better perspective of what options lay ahead.
Retreating also provides an opportunity to consciously decide what you want to take forward in your life. Especially when transitions are triggered by difficult live events such as divorce or job loss, it can be challenging to create a new life chapter from a place of strength. Retreating helps to reflect on past success and make plans for carrying forward these personal assets.
Retreating also helps you consider the timing for your next chapters. When reflecting on options, I engage clients in the 3 Ns – Now, Never & Not Yet. This exercise helps you reflect on when to engage in forward movement, which can be as critical of a decision as determining what to engage in.
The process of reinvention differentiates a simple situational change from a deeper level transition. Whether it’s a new mindset, a perspective, or belief about yourself, reinvention on a psychological level is at the heart of transforming who you are. However, new mindsets, perspectives, and beliefs are often reflected externally and may manifest in how you dress and express yourself in the external world.
I worked with a client who experienced frustration in the workplace. She didn’t feel that the environment aligned with whom she was, and on occasion it made it difficult to access her full sense of personal power at work. The timing wasn’t right for her to change jobs, so we explored ways to adapt to where she was. She reflected on the environments where she felt most powerful – in nature, hiking alone, being adventurous and wearing her Patagonia skirt. We then explored strategies for holding this image of her adventurous self while attending business meetings. While nothing changed externally, this small reinvention of who she could be at work helped her maintain energy and access a deeper sense of personal power on the job. There’s great value in taking time to consider, “What is your power suit?”
The reinvention process in the cycle of transition gives you the opportunity to try on new personas. What if you approached your next stage as a connector, an observer, a collaborator, an adventurer, or initiator? It allows grants permission to try new activities, whether they’re taking overnight hikes, reading Babylonian history, or snapping photos with an old 35mm camera.
Reinvention includes excavating parts of you that have been covered and hidden for years, while giving birth to new gifts and passions. It’s about giving attention and intention to things that drive your curiosity and inspire you to move forward in your life.
Launching life in a different direction with a new sense of self takes effort, and sustaining a new trajectory requires significant energy. A critical, and often overlooked component of transition is this element of managing your energy.
We’ve all experienced the thrill of a new plan where we launch full throttle only to be exhausted weeks later. Taking time to both rejuvenate and mastermind a reasonable plan for moving forward is essential for your success. And finding strategies to help you maintain your enthusiasm are critical. Roald Dahl, the children’s writer who authored Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shared that he ends his writing day when he knows exactly what comes next on the page. While often tempted to get these ideas on ‘paper’ immediately, he knows that to maintain his creative output over the long haul, he’ll be much more inspired to get to his writing the next morning if he knows where the story will go.
As you contemplate your cycles of transition, what do you need?
- Activities for reflection such as the 3 Ns – Now, Never & Not Yet?
- Methods for imagining possibilities?
- Strategies for sustaining your energy in the midst of change?
If support in any of these areas would be helpful, we’d like to offer you some free resources, access to an online program, and additional one-on-one coaching opportunities. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit our dedicated website at www.retreatreinventrecharge.com.
1 Turabian, Jose Luis, Women and Transitions: The theory of turning points; Journal of women; Journal of Women’s Healthcare; Vol 6 (5): e130 https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/women-and-transitions-the-theory-of-turning-points-2167-0420-1000e130-94867.html
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